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InterContinental Hotels has seen a slight improvement in business in the first three months of the year, with strong growth in the US and China.
Bosses said revenue per available room – their preferred measure – was still heavily down on pre-pandemic levels at 50.6% but that occupancy levels did improve during the quarter.
Chief executive Keith Barr said: “There was a notable pick-up in demand in March, particularly in the US and China, which continued into April.
“While the risk of volatility remains for the balance of the year, there is clear evidence from forward bookings data of further improvement as we look to the months ahead.”
The industry has been heavily hit by the global pandemic, which has decimated international travel and tourism. In the UK, the company’s Holiday Inns have been used for quarantining visitors.
Revenues per available room in North and South America improved from 50% below 2019 levels to 43% below. In China it was down 37.7% compared with 2019 and up 78.2% compared with last year.
In Europe, revenues per available room compared with 2019 remained down due to ongoing restrictions.
In the UK, it was down 75%, and by 87% in continental Europe during the period, while in Japan it fell 75%, South East Asia and Korea by 73%, Australia by 51%, and 49% in the Middle East.
Bosses said they are hopeful for the year ahead, opening 56 new hotels and 92 signings for new sites in the quarter.
The company is reviewing its Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza estates globally and closed 31 sites – or 6,300 rooms.
Mr Barr added: “As the rollout of vaccines becomes more established, travel restrictions lift and economic activity rebuilds, traveller demand will continue to grow and generate further momentum in an industry recovery over the course of the year.”
The company also revealed it has repaid a £600 million loan to the UK Government taken out under the coronavirus loan scheme.